"I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!" Actors Talk About Relating to Their Characters
“Marriage is a very good thing, though it’s far from easy…”
(Lyrics from “I Do! I Do!”)
“I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!” plays this summer at The Lofte Community Theatre. While the original production of “I Do! I Do!” has a cast of only two people - one man, one woman, playing the same couple for 50 years of marriage, this newly imagined version allows for a larger cast. A total of 8 performers play the same married couple, Agnes and Michael, over 50 years of marriage, but each couple represents a different time in both the life of the individuals and the marriage.
“I Do! I Do!” opened on Broadway in December of 1966 and starred Mary Martin and Robert Preston. The show ran for nearly 3 years, and 560 performances.
The Lofte first performed “I Do! I Do!” in 1982 and Kevin Colbert and Donna Kunkel were the leads. Donna is the mother of Anna Rebecca Felber who plays Agnes #2 in our current production! Kevin performed the show a second time with his wife Betty in 1994 at Mahoney State Park. Betty will play the part of Agnes # 3 in this production.
The story spans 50 years, starting in 1895 and ending in 1945. As you would expect, none of our actors were alive in 1985, so some situations, feelings, and conversations feel a little outdated, especially to the youngest of the cast.
Lilly Frields plays the first Agnes, and the show starts with her wedding to Michael. Lilly finds the couple a bit rude. “They definitely could be a bit more kind with each other!” she says. “To me, they act a bit like a high school couple!” Lilly would know, she recently graduated from Nebraska City High School. But she also sees similarities between herself and Agnes. “I identify with her, wanting to be something more than just average. While we might be over 100 years different in time, we all have our struggles and hardships. It’s so refreshing to look at these moments in time with humor, knowing that you aren’t alone.”
Lilly’s counterpart, Ross Mumford, plays the first Michael of the show and agrees with Lilly’s views of the couple. “There needed to be more communication and listening, especially.” While Ross does think that Michael did the best with what he had at the time, the world is so different today. “Michael acts as expected,” he said, “But society has grown a lot more and that, while it’s still a patriarchy, women are seen as more equal to men. I do identify with Michael’s innocence and genuineness,” Ross says. “He wants to express and show love but also might not know exactly what to expect.”
As time goes by and Michael and Agnes grow older, the first set of actors step aside to allow Michael and Agnes #2 to take the stage, played by Chris Berger and Anna Rebecca Felber. Anna and her spouse met in an anatomy class at UNO and have been together for 11 years! Anna also sees a bit of herself in Agnes because through the second portion of the show, Agnes is getting her confidence back. “It’s similar to what I’ve gone through in my marriage.” Anna feels this especially when it comes to having kids. “They will make you crazy, and make you feel like you lost part of your identity, but you haven’t. It’s just going to be on hold for a bit. ” Though, Anna doesn’t agree with Agnes on every level. “[She] reacts quite calmly when she hears bad news from her spouse. I would NOT be that calm!”
Despite apparent bad news and rough patches, the couple in the show seems to prevail! Michael #3 is played by James Nygren. James and his spouse have been together for 20 years and he remembers the view of the Nebraska state capitol on their wedding day. When reflecting on the similarities between him and Michael he didn’t find much. “[I’m] different. I’m a sensitive, new-age guy. I’m the guy who wears the pants… when she lets me.” James’s advice to people in relationships is learning how to say, “Yes, Dear!” But in all seriousness, he believes it is better to communicate than bottle up your problems in relationships.
Betty Colbert plays the Agnes to James’s Michael. Betty and her spouse have been together about 40 years and she remembers her wedding as being a stress-free day full of love, family, and friends. She feels that by the time Michael and Agnes #3 come on the stage, they aren’t that different from people of a similar age/life placement, at this time. “They know each other quite well. They still have some delusions, like when kids get married you won’t have to worry about them anymore? Ha!” But something that Betty thinks is very important is the love Agnus and Michael have for each other. “Through conflicts and emotional turmoil, there is always the element of love in their relationship.”
The final Michael and Agnes of the production are played by Gary Williams and Barb Nowick, two Lofte veterans, though you may not recognize Barb’s name. “[I performed on the old stage] back in the ’80s as Barb Loofe.” Barb was married to her most recent partner Manuel in 1996, and they were together for 24 wonderful years until he passed away in mid-2020, at the age of 100! Barb remembers her partner fondly, saying, “If I couldn’t find him in a big crowd, I’d wait for his roaring laugh!” From Barb’s point of view, Michael and Agnes needed to talk more in their younger years. She says, “It’s good to make lists and discuss how to solve problems. But if Michael had problems with Agnes, he should have discussed it earlier!”
When asked what advice they would give to people in relationships, here is what the cast of “I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!” had to say,
“Love is incredible and hard work. Always speak and, more importantly, listen to your partner with respect and sensitivity.”
“Relationships take effort. You fix what’s wrong, or come to a compromise.”
“Respect what your [partner] is feeling. You may not agree, but those are their feelings.
“Relationships are like Nebraska weather, extreme, constantly changing, but most days are really beautiful.”
“Talk - don’t shut down the lines of communication.”
“The older you get, you wonder why you fussed over small things. Just look for the best, and you’ll find it.”
“I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!” runs July 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31 & August 1. Performances are at 7:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 2:00 on Sundays. For details and ticket information visit lofte.org/tickets.